Stop Watching the News

One of the easiest ways to improve your mental health is to simply stop watching the news.

News stories focus almost exclusively on the bad that is going on in the world. Positive news stories don’t get as much attention, and news companies need our attention to make money and survive.

Social media algorithms similarly highlight inflammatory articles and posts, which are more likely to be clicked on by people who are always looking for the next thing to be outraged about.

why do we love to hear bad news?

News agencies provide us with depressing content, because that is what we are most likely to click on.

Why do human beings focus on what is negative? Focusing on threats in our environment enabled us to survive in the past. That was and adaptive trait in a world where threats lurked around every corner, but not in one where threats abound 1,000 kilometers away.

In a world with 7 billion people there will always be something bad going on somewhere.

When we watch the news, and we always see bad things going on it makes us feel under threat as if that thing bad thing is going to happen to us. When we feel threatened our brains go into survival mode. It puts us in a non-stop state of low level stress.

Being in this state constantly leads to mental fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Test how much the news impacts you

If you’d like to see how much the news cycle is having a negative impact on your mental health I challenge you to do this experiment.

The experiment is stop watching all news for one week, and then notice how you feel.

First, you’ll need to record your baseline mental health which you can do by noting your current happiness on a scale from one to 10. I know this seems a little bit simplistic, but this is actually a clinically proven way to measure happiness and well being.

The next step is to stop watching all news for one week. This includes but is not limited to:

  • cable news
  • radio
  • online forums
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • social media
  • podcasts
  • articles

Doing this experiment will likely involve having to stop social media altogether because there’s effectively no way to completely filter out all the news from your feed. That will probably be good for you as well since, generally speaking, social media is not a net positive for mental health.

Curate your news information diet

After you’ve done this for a week, record how happy you are on a scale from one to 10. Was there a change? Was it positive, or negative? Think about why you got the outcome you did. After reflecting on this decide how much news you want in your life moving forward.

Be intentional and curate your information diet rather than just accepting the fire-hose of information that’s coming at you from all the different sources that you consume. Personally I don’t watch any cable news or read any newspapers.

I get all my news from podcasts and articles that I really want to listen to. Every couple of days, I scroll through my favorite podcasts and I save the episodes that look interesting to me on a playlist.

I follow a few different bloggers and every time that I see an article that looks interesting I save it in my pocket app to read later.

The result is that I’m informed about what I want to know AND I get to consume information in the format that I want.

No click-baity sound bites and inflammatory articles.

but i love the news!

As you read this you may feel some resistance welling up inside you. You might be wondering “how will I know what’s going on in the world if I don’t watch the news?”

Let me assure you, if there’s something really big going on, people will tell you.

You might object “I can’t go off social media because I love watching the funny videos and posts”. You will have to make some sacrifices to curate your news information diet, and it will also be good for you to get a break if you’re spending so much time on social media.

Lastly, you might argue “I like watching the news and I don’t want to stop this hobby”. I’m not saying you have to stop watching the news forever. This is an experiment to see how it’s impacting your mental health. Based on the results you can decide what you want to do.

I hope you enjoyed this article, which is the first post in a series of 14 posts on unexpected ways to improve your mental health.

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